The days are growing long and school is almost out... how to keep those young minds engaged in reading over the next few months? I've had great success running a book group for tweens as part of a library Summer Reading Program.
Why summer? Running a book group during the summer gives it a low pressure, low commitment appeal for the participants. It's a time of the year when the tweens don't necessarily have too many other things going on, anyway. The book group is fun, and then it's over by the time their schedules get jam-packed again. Plus- and don't tell the tweens this!- summer is when they really need the brain exercise of reading a book and finding something to say about it.
Why tweens? Your mileage may vary, but I find the middle school age group to be the most receptive to this kind of activity. They're old enough to read books with plenty of thought-provoking content, but not yet so self-conscious that they won't open up and talk in front of their peers.
Does it work? You might think it would be hard to generate a sense of camaraderie among kids who only meet three times during the summer and then go their separate ways, but over three years of hosting a summer tween book group, I watched the so many of same kids come back to book group, growing taller each time they returned. For me, the ultimate affirmation that this book group format works was when one of our regulars delayed his family's out-of-state move by one day... just so he could attend his last book group meeting. Awwwww.
What to read? Choose a book that will really engage the participants, something they would read for fun. Ideally, the book should foster discussion, but be fast-paced and gripping, and should have appeal to both male and female readers. Here are a few titles that have been a big hit with my tween book group:
The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
Schooled, by Gordon Korman
Rules, by Cynthia Lord
Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie, by David Lubar
Life As We Knew It, by Susan Beth Pfeffer
The Lightning Thief, by Rick Riordan
Next time: what do tweens want from a book group?